I mean, how can you even imagine a shark fin rising from the waters, a knife (supposedly) stabbing a girl in the shower, or a prehistoric ape smashing an animal's bones ... without hearing the soundtrack in the back of your mind? Those scenes don't exist without the soundtrack.
So I thought, for the occasion of the blog's fifth birthday, how about spicing it up by posting my 10 favorite soundtracks of all time? I'm neither counting movies with a compilation of songs as soundtracks (so unfortunately Grease and Saturday Night Fever and all Tarantino movies are out), nor any musicals (sorry, Sound of Music). The list is composed of original music written purely for the movie. Each composer gets only one chance - otherwise, John Williams would have grabbed at least 7 of the 10 slots.
And for each movie, I'll post the track the film reminds me of the most, ... so get ready for things to get a little strange here. In alphabetical order:
1. 1492: Conquest of Paradise (Vangelis, 1992)
Vangelis has quite a few great moments in the movie world, primarily the soundtracks of Blade Runner and Chariots of Fire. But Ridley Scott made this incredible Christopher Columbus film (which I'm not sure why it bombed), and Vangelis composed its even greater soundtrack. Among the tracks, the actual moment Columbus and his crew set foot on America is made both victorious and menacing, because of Vangelis' music.
2. Dances With Wolves (John Barry, 1990)
I know, John Barry means James Bond soundtracks. But the guy got five Oscars for his works, and none of them were for Bond movies. Among the Oscar winners, I have some incredible sense of nostalgia for Dances With Wolves, and although this would be considered the film's most recognized theme, the following track resonates with me the most: the film is almost over, the Indians' lands will soon be lost, and their struggle was for nothing.
"Dances with Wolves! I am Wind In His Hair! Do you see that I am your friend?! Can you see that you will always be my friend?!"
3. Edward Scissorhands (Danny Elfman, 1990)
This movie seems to end up on all my ten favorite things of everything. But I can't elude its magic - especially the ending scene, where we finally realize where snow comes from (Edward is making ice statues on the hilltop). Listen to how the dream-like main them walks you through the climactic last scene, and blends in with the end credits, in "The Grand Finale":
4. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Ennio Morricone, 1966)
How can any favorite movie soundtrack list be complete without a mention of Ennio Morricone? In my very humble opinion, the entire Western genre culminates in this one greatest scene, when after hours (in our time) of searching ... Tuco is finally there. He's finally found the cemetery where the treasure is buried. All he needs to do, is to find the gravestone. So he keeps on looking - in circles and circles. Listen to how the music crescendos at a dizzying speed as he runs; how the glory of this moment would have been impossible without Morricone's music. Fortunately, I found the actual scene:
5. The Message (Maurice Jarre, 1977)
I guessed Maurice Jarre specialized in composing foreign melodies: Russian for Doctor Zhivago, Arabic for Lawrence of Arabia, Indian for A Passage to India. But he also wrote the Arabic-themed soundtrack for this lesser known movie in Western countries, The Message, about the life of Mohammad, which by some estimates is the most-seen movie of all time. Geographical setting aside, I've never heard of a soundtrack more appropriately "spiritual". And considering that Jarre also wrote the mesmerizing soundtrack for Jesus of Nazareth, I guess you can infer a certain amount about the man's spiritual side:
By the way, you can find the full movie here.
6. North by Northwest (Bernard Hermann, 1959)
When it comes to Bernard Hermann, not mentioning Psycho's soundtrack (chopped up lines in a background of choppy music, describing a shattered mind) would be a crime. But I can't help it. When I think of the names Hermann and Hitchcock, I hear the opening rumbles of North by Northwest first.
7. The Omen (Jerry Goldsmith, 1976)
As soon as I mention hardworking Goldsmith's only Oscar-winner, you may think of Ave Satani. But nothing matches the scene where Gregory Peck and David Warner are attacked by dogs at the cemetery. (Second mention of a cemetery; cemeteries must be very soundtrack-prone.) Without watching the film and just by listening, you can follow step by step what is happening in the scene. Which is actually the beauty of a great soundtrack.
I couldn't find a separate YouTube clip, but the above-described track starts from minute 32:30, ending at 35:50:
8. The Rock (Hans Zimmer, 1996)
With all his improvisations, Hans Zimmer is getting up there as one of the highest ranking soundtrack composers in movie history. But this was the one that introduced me to him first. The entire Rock soundtrack is an incredibly energizing experience, and if you listen to the music for the San Francisco chase scene (Nicholas Cage driving a Ferrari in hot pursuit of Sean Connery's Hummer), you may achieve road rage status. So seriously, don't listen to this while driving.
9. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (James Horner, 1982)
Interestingly, as crappy as the first Star Trek movie was, Jerry Goldsmith's music was so good, they used it for the New Generation TV series. But then James Horner (of later Aliens and Braveheart and Legends of the Fall and A Beautiful Mind and Titanic and ... soundtracks fame) came along, and wrote music of such power and allure for the second installment, that combined with the movie's memorable story, surpassed all expectation, and made The Wrath of Khan the best Star Trek movie to this day. You can find the entire soundtrack online, but my favorite track belongs to the film's most pivotal scene: a parallel editing between Kirk in the Enterprise, and Khan in the Reliant, when after so many years, Khan's moment of revenge has come, and he utters the lovely sentence:
"Ah, Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold? It is very cold in space ..."
10. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (John Williams, 1980)
When it comes to John Williams, how can one possibly choose? Which soundtrack? Which track? Do you go with the music accompanying ... humans communicating with the Mother Ship? The bicycle flying into the night? Indy on the rope bridge? Seeing the brachiosaurus for the first time? Or Oskar Schindler having a nervous breakdown? Utterly impossible.
So the best you can do, is to come up with the best compilation - the best "whole".
In that regard, three movies shine: Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. ANH is probably John Williams most recognized achievement, but when assessing a movie soundtrack in its entirety, I believe ESB is 'slightly' more profound. This soundtrack has so many everlasting moments: the Imperial March, the battle in the snow, the asteroid field scene, and even Yoda's beautiful theme. But in terms of movie background music, one track stands out, and I told you, this will get strange: "The Duel".
Starts out with Vader using the Force to hurl huge objects at Luke, then moves to Leia and Lando fighting their way through Bespin's corridors to reach the Millennium Falcon, R2-D2 decoding and opening the platform gate, and the ship swooping away with four uplifting notes. Listen, and you can actually "see" these events happening right before your eyes.
So ... which are your favorite soundtracks?